The Atlantic

The Spies Who Love Putin

How the FSB's loyalty to Russia's president made it the country's most powerful intelligence agency
Source: Ria Novosti / Kremlin / Alexei Druzhinin / Reuters

It’s tempting to look to the playbooks and historical traditions of the late Soviet Union to explain the audacity of today’s Russian intelligence activity, from its meddling in U.S. elections, to apparently killing Kremlin opponents abroad. But these activities are not just products of old ways or new geopolitics. They also stem from a shift in the activities of Russia’s political police force, the infamous Federal Security Service (FSB). Originally established to protect the Kremlin’s rule at home, it has increasingly moved into Russia’s foreign operations.A new cohort of secret policemen, ignorant of the traditions of spycraft and secure in Putin’s protection, has fundamentally altered the nature of Russian intelligence.

The FSB stands accused not just of engineering the leaks against Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, but also backing extremist parties in Europe, stirring up discontent among Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic, allegedly murdering Chechen opposition leaders in Turkey and Austria, spreading disinformation, and even kidnapping an Estonian security officer across the border in

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